Haywood Waterways Association recently gave out 2009 stewardship awards to several people and organizations that have worked to protect and improve the waterways of Haywood County.
n Volunteer Organization of the Year went to Mike Gillespie and the Richland Creek Streamkeepers. Gillespie, a local dentist, organized a group of students to adopt a section of Richland Creek around Vance Street Park in Waynesville. The Streamkeepers conducted several cleanups in 2009 and removed over 36 bags of trash.
“It is important to expose our youth to the pollution issues affecting our waterways, not only so they appreciate our water but also understand ways they can help protect it,” Gillespie said.
n Partner of the Year went to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Wildlife commission officers help every year with Haywood Waterways’ “Kids in the Creek Program,” a field trip that exposes students to aquatic life and the effect of pollution on water. The Wildlife Commission also helps with education events at the Maggie Valley Trout Festival each year, constructed handicap fishing access piers on Richland Creek in Vance Street Park and on the Pigeon River in Canton, and is a valuable member of the Haywood Waterways Technical Advisory Committee.
The Wildlife Resources Commission is leading the Pigeon River Recovery Project. This project is restoring native fish and mollusk populations downstream of Canton, and is a collaborative effort with many organizations and agencies. They’ve even set up educational aquariums at several local schools.
n The Pigeon River Award went to a state program that eliminates sources of raw sewage going into streams. Failing septic systems and in some cases straight-piping funnel raw sewage from homes into creeks. The program, under the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, helps identify culprits and provides funds to fix the problem when it involves a low-income household.
The program is currently surveying the entire Richland Creek watershed to identify problem spots.
Ed Kelley from Ridge Runner Naturals Gallery and Studio in Waynesville provided the awards for the winners. www.haywoodwaterways.org.